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Increase web traffic via social bookmarking

SUMMARY: You create blogs, articles, photos and other interesting content chronicling your church's retreats, service projects and sermons. How do you attract the outside world? Social bookmarking is a new method used to share the good word and draw people to your church Web site. Increased traffic through backlinks will boost your rank in search results and expose even more Web visitors to your church.

You probably are familiar with saving your favorite Web sites to a browser such as Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, the saved URL address is tied to one computer. Social bookmarking allows surfers to save favorites on a Web site, instead of a browser, so they can access the content on any computer. In addition, other people using that Web site can access your content through a system called "tagging." You "tag" articles by topic so the bookmarking site can categorize and share the content with people in the social community who are interested in the same or similar topics. YouTube offers a great video explanation here.

Here are some of the most popular tags: religion, music, family, love, mental health, goals, dreams, fun, joy, peace and news. Bookmarking boosts your rank in search results.

Social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Del.ici.ous and Stumble Upon allow you to share your online content with the world. These sites boost readership and backlinks to your Web site by allowing users to rank articles. A backlink is simply a link to your Web site located on another site. (They are "linking back" to you.)

The more thumbs-up or positive feedback you get, the more backlinks to your site. As you create backlinks to your Web site and draw traffic, search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN will track this activity and rank your site higher in search results. (Read more about search engine optimization and backlinks here.)

The more you interact, the more visitors will be exposed to your church. Check out this great list of the most popular social bookmarking sites. You may want to focus on the top five and work from there.

Best practices
Good first impressions are critical. You need not submit every blog, article or Web page created. Only share the most important or popular subjects. Some online communities will block you if they feel alienated or overloaded with irrelevant content. Since this is "social" media, try to maintain a personal presence on the top bookmarking sites. Do this by adding friends and rating their content. You will get better results and exposure if you contribute to the community.

Semi-automated tools
Once you start completing forms for social bookmarking sites, you may lose enthusiasm as time ticks away. Several Web sites and software now make the submission process simpler and more doable. They shave hours from your work time by allowing you to input all data once before uploading to the multitude of sites. SocialMarker and SocialPoster are two of the more user-friendly free Web sites.

Before you take advantage of these tools, you must register with each social bookmarking site you wish to use. This initial task can take awhile, but it gets easier.

Here is how most semi-automated submission sites work:
• Input the title of your site, article or other content.
• Input the Web link or URL.
• Describe the content in the text box.
• Identify and insert tags or key words related to your content.
• Choose which bookmarking sites you want to target and then hit "Submit."
• You will then be taken to each bookmarking site. If you have not already signed up, you should do so at this point. After you log in, your data will be pre-populated or pasted in the proper fields.

You may have to do some custom editing as each site is a little different, but much of the work is done for you. This process may take a couple of hours or more if you have a lot of content to contribute. However, the results can be quite significant if the community likes what you are sharing. 

SocialSubmitter is software that can be purchased ($150 now as the site is offering a half-off discount) and downloaded to your computer. It actually submits your site and/or links to 50 to 75 sites automatically. It is much faster than the semi-automated services and gives you more options to try.

Think of the possibilities! You can use the online content you've already created to reach a wider audience, including persons unfamiliar with your church. By using the right social bookmarking methods, you also will save time devoted to online ministry.